JACKSONVILLE — Some call it Black Thursday. Black Friday. Even BLEAK Thursday. A great many consumers simply refer to it as "BLEH."
Despite an amazing array of available discounted toys, laptops, tablets and clothing, many East Texas shoppers were fearful Thursday they might experience some of that infamous "dog-eat-dog" shopping behavior while out and about searching for great deals.
It's no secret that 2013 marks the half-decade anniversary of the three 2008 Black Friday deaths — a trampled Walmart worker in New York and two men who shot each other at a California Toys R Us that same year.
However, at least locally, 2013 Black Friday shopping seemed more kind and gentle this year for many East Texans.
"Several families have been telling me it's a little bit calmer," explained Jacksonville's Peoples Church Pastor David J. Butler. "I have heard that it wasn't like last year's chaos. This is from families who typically look forward to Black Friday and speak from experience."
The pastor tends to get a lot of feedback from his flock, so he knows what he's talking about. Butler averages between 150 and 250 people a sermon.
Despite the thousands of East Texans who descended upon Walmart, Beals, CVS and other stores in the area, there have been numerous accounts of shoppers being restrained and respectful.
The pastor said conversations with some families Friday afternoon indicated local crowds were definitely "calmer than normal."
However, the pastor added, this behavior seems to be in direct contradiction to national news images he has seen of Black Friday shoppers.
The calmer approach seems to be taking place throughout Cherokee County.
For instance, a cursory glance at the Palestine Walmart on Thursday evening revealed an immense crowd of shoppers — many of whom were self-governing, polite, helpful to one another, and showing a very "we're in this together" kind of attitude.
However, some shoppers still faced at least two hours waiting in line, once they had selected the items wanted.
"I don't think I'll ever do this Black Friday thing again," one very tired woman vowed Thursday as she slogged through in an intimidating amount of people along the toy aisle.
Not everyone got trapped by immense crowds while taking advantage of the shopping opportunities.
Some Cherokee County residents — Tomato Fest chairman Robin Butt, for instance — avoided a lot of headache by simply teaming up with spouses, popping in to the store at the exact right time, and shopping smartly and effectively.
"Me and my wife tag-teamed it and got what we needed," Butt said Friday. "We started at 6 p.m., self-checked out and were out of there by 6:15 p.m. Not sure how it was after that."
The National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade association, reports that more people are taking advantage of the early opening of stores on and after Thanksgiving.
NRF estimates that holiday sales will increase 3.9 percent this year to $602 billion.
"The traditional start of holiday shopping on Black Friday is breaking new records,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release.